Three Utah County men are in custody after their arrest Wednesday for their alleged involvement in the burglary of two U.S. Forest Service vehicles.
According to the probable cause statement filed in support of the arrest, detectives with the Orem Police Department responded to a local Hampton Inn on Sunday after receiving reports that a U.S. Forest Service truck had been unlawfully entered and a chain saw, Husky tool crate and other wildland fire fighting tools had been stolen.
On that same night, at Towne Place Suites, authorities received reports that another U.S. Forest Service truck had been entered and two chain saws had been stolen from the vehicle.
An Orem city employee informed police Wednesday morning that a chain saw resembling the one reported stolen had appeared on KSL Classifieds. The employee was able to obtain the seller’s information — identified as 41-year-old William Buck Strange of Provo — from the advertisement.
Not long after, police were advised that the KSL ad had been taken down, but that Strange had allegedly posted the chain saws on Facebook Marketplace, according to arrest documents. Authorities went online and discovered the ad being sold under Strange’s name.
Using the pictures Strange allegedly posted online, U.S. Forest Service safety personnel were able to positively identify the chain saws by a specific safety stick place on each piece of equipment by the organization.
Several detectives spoke with Strange to set up a time and place to purchase the stolen property from him. On Wednesday, detectives responded to the Traverse Mountain Outlets in Lehi as a part of the alleged agreement with Strange.
While on scene, authorities observed a man wearing a white hat, full face mask, sunglasses, a white shirt, jeans and a puffy vest who was allegedly acting suspicious and pacing back and forth.
Detectives who had set up the purchase of the stolen items met with an individual in the parking lot who was later identified as 25-year-old Timothy Edward Newton of Orem. According to the probable cause affidavit, Newton approached detectives and allegedly asked if they were there to purchase the chain saw.
Newton then allegedly took detectives to a vehicle where the chain saw was being held. At that time, authorities took Newton into custody.
Newton had been seen driving a gray Hyundai Elantra into the parking lot. After parking the vehicle, Newton and another man wearing a white T-shirt and carrying a longboard exited the vehicle. The two men parted ways, with Newton pulling the chain saw out of the backseat and the other man walking toward the Nike store.
Newton told police he was hoping to sell the chain saw for $450, but he was selling it for someone else. Newton allegedly said Strange told him to sell it, adding that Strange also had stolen the vehicle he had driven to the location, according to arrest documents.
Police asked Newton where Strange was, and Newton allegedly described the man who had been watching the parking lot and pacing back and forth. Officials combed the area and found Strange walking in the center of the shopping complex, and he was taken into custody.
Officers ran the license plate of the vehicle Newton had alleged was stolen, and it returned to a Hyundai Elantra out of Provo that was not listed as stolen. Authorities, however, discovered that the last five digits of the vehicle identification number for the license plate did not match the VIN of the vehicle on scene.
Police ran the VIN of the vehicle and discovered that it had been reported stolen out of Orem on Oct. 8, according to the probable cause statement.
Authorities located the individual that had been in the vehicle with Newton when he arrived in the Van’s outlet store. The man, identified as 44-year-old Kerry James Clift of Orem, was also taken into custody.
During a probable cause search of the stolen vehicle, police discovered three small bags near the gear shifter. In two of the bags, authorities reportedly discovered a black substance that resembled heroin. The third bag allegedly contained a white crystal substance that appeared to be methamphetamine.
In the trunk of the car, according to arrest documents, police reportedly discovered a second chain saw as well as several other tools.
During an interview with police, Strange allegedly said he had stolen the chain saws from the U.S. Forest Service vehicles, stating that both vehicles were unlocked. Strange also reportedly said he had tried to sell the chain saws on KSL and Facebook Marketplace.
The two chain saws found on scene, Strange allegedly told police, were two of the stolen chain saws, adding that the third had been sold to a man in Salt Lake City. Strange reportedly gave police the number of the man he had sold it to, and West Jordan Police were able to recover the stolen equipment.
Clift reportedly told police during his interview that Strange had given him his phone to arrange the sale of the next chain saw, but the phone had been locked, so he was unable to finalize the details. Clift allegedly said the three men had arrived together, but he had “a funny feeling” about the sale and told Newton to do it, according to arrest documents.
Clift also allegedly said Strange had been driving the stolen vehicle for a few weeks and that he keeps the vehicle parked on the street in front of his house. When asked about the heroin and methamphetamine located in the vehicle, Clift allegedly said it was not his, but added he did use it.
In his interview with police, Newton reportedly said he was with Strange when the chain saws were stolen, adding that he did not enter both vehicles but had entered one of them.
Strange and Newton were arrested under the suspicion of second-degree felony transfer of a stolen vehicle, third-degree felony theft by receiving stolen property, third-degree felony theft, class A misdemeanor burglary of a vehicle, class A misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance, and class B misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia.
Clift was arrested under the suspicion of third-degree felony theft by receiving stolen property, class A misdemeanor theft by deception, class A misdemeanor delivery of drug paraphernalia, and class A misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance.
He was also arrested under the suspicion of class B misdemeanor retail theft stemming from a Sept. 2 incident at Al’s Sporting Goods in Orem.
According to the probable cause statement filed in support of the arrest, Clift selected a knife from a display at the retail location before going to another part of the store, removing the knife from its packaging, and placing the knife in his pocket.
Clift then allegedly returned the package to the display, placing it behind another knife, before leaving the store without purchasing the knife in his pocket. The knife was valued at $83.95
All three men are currently in custody at the Utah County Jail.